Why is Microsoft so scared of Chromebooks?

Microsoft is hitting at Chromebooks hard, with an ad featuring the heroes of the reality show "Pawn Stars" trashing the devices, and saying that a Chromebook is "not a real laptop." Microsoft wouldn't spend this much time and money on this if it wasn't worried. Why is Microsoft so scared of Chromebooks?

The online ad mirrors Pawn Star episodes, in which people bring objects for appraisal to a pawn shop. In Microsoft's ad -- clearly fiction, not fact -- a young woman brings in a Chromebook her mother recently bought for her, hoping to pawn it and get enough money in return for a ticket to Los Angeles.

One of the owners of the shop trask-talks Chromebooks, warning that "When you're not connected, it's pretty much a brick," and then adding it's "not a real laptop." And that's just the beginning. He then warns that when you use a Chromebook Google tracks everything you do, and from there he's off to the races. His spiel was clearly written by Microsoft and mirrors the core of Microsoft's anti-Google Scroogled campaign.

This isn't the first shot Microsoft is taking at Chromebooks. The Wall Street Journal reports that half a year ago Microsoft put into effect "Chrome fighter" incentives that give computer makers discounts on Windows software.

Clearly, Microsoft is worried if it needs to hit at Chromebooks so hard. And there's good reason for it to be worried. Google is spending a substantial amount of money advertising them on TV. And as I write this, three of the top five best-selling laptops on Amazon are Chromebooks.

Chromebooks go after a slice of the market that Microsoft is targeting with its Windows tablets. Increasingly, Microsoft pitches the Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 not just as tablets, but essentially as notebooks for getting work done as well. It clearly fears that people will see the much-lower pricetag for Chromebooks, and buy one instead.

Because of that, expect there to be plenty more mud to be slung at Chromebooks by Microsoft. There's too much at stake for Microsoft to let Chromebooks become mainstream big sellers.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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